Zimbabwe: influenza outbreak in tsholotsho district

November 1, 2010

Zimbabwe: influenza outbreak in tsholotsho district © MSF


A significant increase in the number of Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) in Tsholotsho District (around 500Km Southwest of Harare) has been recorded since the second week of October. The Ministry of Health collected nasal swabs from seven patients who presented with severe forms of ARI and is currently trying to confirm the strain of the virus.

As of today, over 8,500 cases with flu-like symptoms have been registered throughout Tsholotsho district. No related deaths have been reported. The disease seems to have affected all age groups.

MSF’s intervention

After the Ministry of Health requested MSF’s assistance –human resources, expertise and logistics– combined MoH-MSF outreach teams have been working since 16th October to visit rural clinics, schools and communities to collect epidemiological data, evaluate availability of resources in the medical facilities, provide case management assistance and put in place infection control measures.

“During the visits, the teams also inform the communities of the signs and symptoms regarding the disease and encourage them to utilize the closest rural clinic to get early treatment,” says Jean François Saint-Sauveur, MSF’s Medical Coordinator. “In addition, health care workers in the clinics receive instructions to collect and share daily information concerning suspected cases.”

MSF is the main partner to the MoH in the response of this outbreak, coordinating the intervention with the MoH/Health Cluster in Harare to assess the response adequacy and to evaluate whether there is need for any additional support. Main activities are focused in providing support in data collection and analysis, case management and facilitating transport to the rural sites. MSF outreach teams of the regular HIV project in the district (that covers 12 of the 17 District’s clinics) are paying daily visits to prioritised clinics and adjacent communities for collection of case listings and support to healthcare staff. Data coming from the district and concomitant case management is monitored on a daily basis in order to plan the subsequent activities.

MSF has been working in Zimbabwe since 2000. At present, MSF programmes provide life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to over 45,000 HIV+ patients and thousands more receive medical care in rural or city clinics in Tsholotsho, Bulawayo, Buhera, Gweru, Epworth and Beitbridge. In addition, MSF provides medical care to victims of sexual and gender-based violence and responds to epidemic outbreaks.

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